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Growing Up Time for Wildcats

By Mark Janssen

MANHATTAN, Kan. - The last time Kansas State's basketball team lost three games in a row was between the 2009 dates of January 10 and January 21.

In fact, the Wildcats lost four games to Oklahoma, Kansas, Nebraska and Baylor to open Big 12 Conference play. K-State would win its next six games, and finish in fourth-place 9-7 in league play.

Of that team that included Jacob Pullen, Denis Clemente, Darren Kent, Jamar Samuels and Fred Brown as starters, coach Frank Martin says, "We got off to a rough start, but the guys in the locker room took ownership of the team. They were mentally tough guys and guys who worked every day. There was a consistency with how they approached every day. This team's (2010-11) approach has been inconsistent."

This K-State team is 0-2 in the Big 12 and 12-5 overall entering play this afternoon at 12:30 in Bramlage Coliseum against 0-2, 8-9 Texas Tech. The Wildcats have lost two in a row and three of their last six; the Red Raiders have lost two in a row and six of their last nine.

To avoid that third loss in a row, Martin said after Wednesday's hiccup against Colorado, "I'm not going to blame a player, two players or half the team. My job is to fix the team and to find guys in the locker room who can help me fix it."

To senior Jacob Pullen it's as simple as finding guys who are ready to "grow up," said the Wildcat guard. "That's the key to our team. We have all the talent in the world and all the depth in the world, but that doesn't mean anything if people don't know what they're doing. We have to accept responsibility and grow up."

It's what Pullen says happened to begin that 2009 Big 12 season: "Denis and I stepped up, Jamar stepped up. We took responsibility and made ourselves accountable for everything that was going on in the locker room, in practice and in film. We grew up and became a good team. We went on the road and beat Texas and beat Texas A&M because we grew up. That's what this team has to do. We have to grow up very fast."

Pullen went on to say that despite the 0-2 start this year, "There's nothing that says we can't win the rest."

Rodney McGruder adds, "We need to find a rhythm. We have a lot of games left in the Big 12. We just need to find our rhythm very soon before it's too late."

Who to Watch for Tech
Three Big 12 teams - K-State, Texas Tech and Oklahoma - have opened the year 0-2, with the Wildcats and Red Raiders battling to avoid an 0-3 beginning Saturday.

Like the Wildcats (62 and 66 points in two Big 12 games), the Red Raiders have had trouble scoring the ball in Big 12 losses to Texas, 83-52, and to Baylor, 71-59.

With a cast of older players, Martin said of Pat Knight's team, "Going into the year they expected to perform a certain way, but it hasn't happened. But they have talent on their team and I expect their biggest effort all year."

Tech is led by four twin-figure scorers, but no one averaging more than 13.2 points per game - Mike Singletary (13.2), Brad Reese (12.0), John Roberson (11.3) and David Tairu (10.4), plus a fifth in Robert Lewandowski (9.9).

Tech (.451) and K-State (.440) rank 11th and 12th, respectively, in shooting, while the Red Raiders are also lost in field goal defense (.453) while the Wildcats rank eighth (.397).

While K-State is second in rebounding margin at plus-10.2, Tech is last at minus-3.4.

Kelly to Return
After serving a six-game suspension, K-State's 6-8 senior Curtis Kelly will be back in the K-State lineup with his 11.5 scoring and 6.2 rebounding averages. On Thursday, Martin indicated he wasn't sure as to whether Kelly would start.

Up Next
K-State has to make a quick turn as it next travels to Columbia for a "Big Monday" afternoon telecast against Missouri. Tipoff time on ESPN will be 4:30 p.m.

The game begins the Wildcats' toughest stretch of the season as it will travel to Texas A&M on Jan. 22, host Baylor on Jan. 24, and journey to Kansas on Jan. 29.

Wildcat Women also Play Tech
Kansas State puts its 1-1, 11-4 record on the line this afternoon at 2 in Lubbock, Texas, against the 2-0, 15-1 Texas Tech Lady Raiders.

Tech will send height and talent at the Wildcats as their front line goes 6-3, 6-3 and 6-2, while the Wildcats counter with 6-2, 5-11 and 5-11.

K-State has won in its last three trips to Lubbock and has defeated Tech in seven of the last eight meetings, which includes a win at last year's Big 12 Championships, 59-51.

Unranked, Tech has won seven games in a row, and is off to the best start since the 2003-04 season. The Lady Raiders are joined by Baylor, Texas A&M and Oklahoma as league teams off to 2-0 starts in the Big 12 race.

Tech's lone loss was to Penn State, 78-68.

Vote for Lehning
Shalee Lehning, K-State women's basketball assistant coach and current member of the Atlanta Dream, is involved in a unique competition at WNBA.com. The two-year veteran of the league had a photo involving her saving a ball from going out of bounds selected as a finalist for the website's "Photo of the Year" competition. With the assistance of fan voting, Lehning's image has reached the finals against a photo of San Antonio Silver Stars' guard Becky Hammon.

To vote for Shalee's photo, fans can click here to participate in the competition.